Hi Team
Merchant Navy Day is celebrated annually on 3rd September with memorial services usually held on the Sunday following, this year on the 6th. Like Britain, and other Commonwealth countries, this event will be remembered in New Zealand with services held in the main centres and a number of Returned Service Associations around the country.

Our family remembers Lionel Hodgson who crossed the bar in November 2014 aged 96, in Christchurch N.Z. He was my wife's uncle and was the 5th Engineer on the NZSCompany's SS REMUERA. She was the largest vessel of around 50 ships in convoy HX65A that departed Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 12 August 1940 bound for the United Kingdom. She had left Wellington on 12 July fully laden with frozen cargo.
During the voyage six ships were sunk by U-boats with many lives lost. The Remuera had good fortune to have evaded the enemy submarine attacks but more action lay ahead. On 26 August the convoy proceeded eastwards off the northern coast of Scotland then turned SE towards Scapa Flow. The whistling of a bomb from a Junkers 88 was heard by the crew of the Remuera, but landed in the sea. From the port side deck Lionel saw an aircraft coming in with it's machine gun blazing which was followed by a flying torpedo from the Heinkel 115 as it got closer. A large hole had been blown in the side of the ship between the forth and fifth holds. The fate of the ship was sealed but very fortunately all the crew were rescued before the Remuera sunk beneath the waters of the North Sea, 65 years ago this month.
Lionel's thoughts at this point in time are remembered in the introduction page to the Merchant Navy on the New Zealand History web page below. Lionel and the other crew members in his lifeboat were taken aboard the Royal Navy sloop HMS EGRIT to the small fishing port at Peterhead, NE Scotland. Also onboard were survivors from the MV CAPE YORK that was also attacked and sunk in the air-raid.

A year later Lionel Hodgson signed on to the SS WESTMORELAND flying the Federal Line flag. She departed Wellington on 26 April 1942 with a full cargo, including 3,235 tons butter, 20,450 crates of cheese, 20,820 carcasses of lamb and mutton, 7,400 carcasses of pork and 9,554 bales of wool. Heading north east she cleared the Panama Canal on 22 May and set course for Halifax, Canada. At 0100 on 1 June the first torpedo struck from U-566. The Westmoreland was positioned 275 miles NNE of Bermuda and 520 miles from the nearest point on the North American coastline. After three days in a lifeboat the Canadian steam merchant CATHCART en route from the West Indies to Halifax came to the rescue.
Indeed a lucky ending for the unfortunate Westmoreland crew, three of whom had been lost in the attack, and one very lucky engineer, Lionel Hodgson, who had survived two ship sinkings.

Information on this year's Merchant Navy Day in NZ follows below

Peter Hogg
Royal NZ Naval Assn
South Canterbury Branch


The Merchant Navy

Page 1 – Introduction

We just drifted away from the ship and lay there and watched as she slowly went down ... She slowly filled up from the stern and the last I saw of her, from the bridge up she was vertical and she just slowly went down. In those days at least, the ship was your home, and I'll never forget the feeling when I saw my home disappear under the waves.

Lionel Hodgson, Engineer, SS Remuera

British propaganda poster
Several thousand New Zealanders served in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War. These civilian volunteers sailed the ships that delivered troops, military equipment and vital cargoes of food, fuel and raw materials across the world's oceans. This work was so essential to the Allies' war effort that the Merchant Navy was effectively regarded as the fourth service alongside the army, navy and air force.
Work on the ships was tough – but also full of adventure. Merchant seafarers often found themselves in the front lines of the war at sea. Many ships were torpedoed or bombed; survivors sometimes spent days or weeks in lifeboats before being rescued. More than 140 New Zealand merchant seafarers lost their lives, and a similar number were taken prisoner. No other group of New Zealand civilians faced such risks during wartime.

The Red Ensign will be flown from the Auckland Harbour Bridge alongside New Zealand’s national flag on Thursday (3 September) to commemorate the role of the Merchant Navy in wartime.
3 September is known officially as Merchant Navy Day and recognises the contribution and sacrifice made during wartime by the crews of merchant ships.
“The Merchant Navy played a critical role during wartime transporting troops, military equipment and vital cargo around the world under the constant threat of enemy raids, and flying the New Zealand Red Ensign from the harbour bridge recognises the contribution made by this remarkable group of people,” says the NZ Transport Agency’s Regional Director for Auckland, Ernst Zöllner.
3 September was also the start of World War 2 in 1939.
“Within three hours of the declaration of war, the first allied merchant ship was sunk in the Atlantic Ocean,” says the President of the Auckland Merchant Navy Association Bill Law. “Merchant seamen were civilians, not military people. Among the 30,000 who died during World War 2, 135 were New Zealanders and flying the Red Ensign from the harbour bridge is a very fitting tribute to them all.”

The New Zealand Red Ensign has been flown on all New Zealand Merchant Navy ships – both cargo and passenger – since 1901. The ensign is also flown on pleasure boats. It is identical in design to New Zealand’s national flag except the background is red instead of blue.
New Zealand’s national flag is normally flown from both flag staffs on the Auckland Harbour Bridge every day of the year. There are three exceptions: on Waitangi Day, when the Tino Rangatiratanga flag is also flown, on ANZAC Day when the Australian flag is raised, and on Merchant Navy Day when the Red Ensign will fly alongside the New Zealand flag.
3 September, 2015
A remembrance service will be held at the New Zealand Maritime Museum to commemorate those who served and lost their lives in the Merchant Navy during the Second World War from the first day to the last.
In 2010 the New Zealand Government announced that they would join Britain and other commonwealth countries to commemorate those who served in the Merchant Navy in the Second World War. The date chosen was 3rd September as this observes the sinking of the first British merchant ship in 1939, just hours after the war was declared.
The Service will begin at 11am in the Maritime Room and take approximately one hour, which includes the laying of the wreath at the Museum’s Merchant Navy Memorial Plaque.
Barry Parsons, one of the Museum's long serving guides will also be giving a talk about the wartime careers of the Merchant Navy ships represented by the models in our 'Oceans Apart' gallery : 10am & 1pm (this talk will be approximately 40 minutes).
Following the service, there will be tea and coffee served in the Maritime Room.